Evans High School's girls basketball team ended the first half of the season by losing at Cross Creek on Tuesday night. The 52-39 loss, however, didn't indicate the type of season the Lady Knights have experienced so far.
With the season's first region games beginning this weekend, the Lady Knights entered their Region 3-AAAA schedule with a 7-5 overall season. Though it's not exactly a record, preseason expectations for the Lady Knights were much worse.
"I compare it to the past years that I've been here, and that's amazing," Evans senior Laura Middleton said. "We're ahead by leaps and bounds of where we've been in the past."
With 11 games left in regular season play, the Lady Knights entered the weekend only three wins away from matching last season's win-total. While it's no time for the Evans girls to claim a spot among the state's best, they do have reason to smile.
They're getting the job done without last season's top guard, Janay Moore, who transferred to Greenbrier before the school year began.
"We knew we'd have to rely more on Taylor Jones," Evans girls basketball coach Tim Whitfield said. "We knew if we were really going to be competitive, we needed her to step up."
Jones, in her second season with the Lady Knights, has started at point guard all season. She's better known for her softball skills as a starting centerfielder, but Whitfield said Jones' basketball skills are a direct reason why the team holds a winning record entering region play.
"She's a competitor. If there's one girl that's hard to sub in for, it's her," he said.
Whitfield said fellow starters Brittany Brooker, Tiphani Grimes and Tarah Henderson have also filled specific roles that have led to an early season success story. Middleton and center DeNisha Lynch lead one of the tallest four-five combinations in the county.
"Everybody knows their roles now at this time of the year," Middleton said. "We've all stepped it up, and we have more heart this year."
With a winning record, Whitfield said he's staying cautiously optimistic in his expectations of the rest of the season. The Lady Knights still must face undefeated and fifth-ranked Greenbrier twice along with the rest of the Region 3-AAAA schedule which includes Statesboro, Richmond Academy and Lakeside.
"It's all about the region playoffs, and only four of us get to go," he said. "You just got to make sure you're one of those four."
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